Monday, May 14, 2012

Martinek Responds to “What I Want To Know”




   1.      What is your position on the Town Council's proposed  amendments to the Southbridge Home Rule Charter?

    
 I served on the Charter Review Committee for a period of one year. During that time, and despite what some people thought, even though we were hand selected, we came from various backgrounds, and there were a lot of passionate discussions on the issues that resulted in our recommendations.


 I think it's fair to say that we all viewed the Charter as a sound document, in need of some minor modifications. However, once Councilor Spinelli got a hold of them, he contacted none of us that served on the Committee for our input, instead opting in two subcommittee meetings to take less than one hour to destroy the work we did over the course of a year. Ironically, the worst item that they added to our recommendations was one that Councilor Clemence favors: making it MORE difficult to get rid of the Town Manager than it currently is. Completely unwarranted, unless you want the person that does your bidding for you as Town Manager to be insulated. All the Town Manager needs now is to have four friends on his side to prevent his termination for cause. Think about it this way: if Clayton Carlisle were Town Manager, and he had four friends to protect him, he'd still be our Town Manager under this rule. So, as much as it pains me, since they're going to try to put each issue on the ballot separately, I'd rather see all of our hard work go down in flames to prevent this one change, than to try and explain all of the changes. Therefore, I hope everyone votes to reject all these changes to send Councilors Clemence and Spinelli the message that we reject their tactic, and to let any Town Manager know that they work for the Town Council--not the other way around.


2.      Would you seek to reduce the town budget? In what areas? How?

      Absolutely. This budget has increased to the point that, short of bringing a Brink's truck to everyone's house and confiscating what's left of their paychecks, they will continue their tax and spend ways, since the voters have not made the case that they are fed up with this nonsensical approach to government. But before I start, I would like to clear one thing up for the taxpayers of Southbridge: just because a Town Councilor tells you it's in the budget, doesn't mean you have to spend it. Nor does it mean that it should be in the budget. A Town Manager has the ability to come in under budget, but, as anyone who has dealt with the government can verify (I have), there is a fear of not getting the same funding the following year if the money isn't spent during this budget cycle.

      Three years ago, when I ran, I was and still am today, an advocate of becoming more efficient by reducing and eliminating redundancies. Since it's only Monday morning now, I couldn't tell you how many assistants Town Manager Clark has of this moment (the way things change, and positions are added, it's a constantly moving target. When we look at a Human Resources Officer, you have to wonder how much more he plans on adding additional jobs at Town Hall), but that's the first place to start. As you know, Ken, while we served together on the Charter Review Committee, I actually defended Town Manager Clark, when the subject came up of recommending a change to a Town Administrator at a lower salary, unless it took effect after he left. Why? Because he was hired for this position, and doing that would have given the unjustified inference that he was demoted, and that isn't proper.

      However, we should be looking, after he leaves, for a Town Administrator who knows how to multi-task, not a Town Manager who makes $140,000 a year, in the range of the Governor of Massachusetts. Keep in mind, the job was advertised, if memory serves me correctly, at $105,000 a year, he asked for $115,000, and Councilor Nikolla pushed for $130,000 a year. I wish I knew how to reverse negotiate like that at my job. It's asinine when we spend $25,000 a year more for the job as advertised, and $15,000 more a year is given than someone is asking for. A person taking this job does not need or require a town car, with gas and tolls paid, to do his job. He lives in Sturbridge, so like those of us who work in the private sector, he should give up these perks, and drive to work in his own car. If he needs to go to a meeting, like the private sector, he should fill out an expense form for re-imbursement for those rare occasions. His office has too many assistants for one Town Manager, so he needs to cut down the extra positions by half, and learn to do more between himself and those reporting to him...although his tactic of hiring many people may endear himself to that segment of voters.

      There are many more things I could detail for you Ken, but here's a big one: whether or not something is in the budget, unless it's a matter of life and death, it doesn't get approved. The Town needs to tighten it's belt as it expects us to. If that means that police vehicles need to be out a little longer, so be it. I would also like to see the numbers we use to justify purchases of vehicles as opposed to leasing. My father-in-law used to work for MHQ, which leased cruisers to towns, and this is one of the only ones I've seen where we find it more cost effective to buy than lease. I'll be the first to say if there is documented reasons as to why we do it the way we do, but if not, we need to change our mindset.



3.      What would you do to increase employment opportunities in Southbridge?

      This question, Ken, is probably the most difficult to answer. When I served as a citizen member of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, I saw firsthand the deer in the headlights approach to helping the economy. People actually talked about what businesses they'd like in town. In the real world, it doesn't work that way. I remember someone saying we should have a Starbucks and a TGI Friday's. I've worked with Starbucks in the past, and like any savvy business, they have qualifications for where they open. It's based on items such as income, traffic volume, parking, and the number of people in their target market within a certain radius. I called Starbucks after this meeting, asking, out of curiosity, would Southbridge be within their demographics? It wasn't. So you don't hand select the businesses that you'd like in town, your court them with a solid marketing person that has an actual plan to sell them on the benefits of coming to Southbridge, and how their employees would benefit by living in town.

      This is the only business I've seen, and yes, our government is a business, that doesn't hold people accountable. One need only look at the Town Manager review forms to see that it's highly subjective. We need to have all positions accountable with a very heavy amount of objectivity. For the Town Manager, that can be his/her ability to come in under budget, reduce spending, and hold the line on taxes. For the Director of Economic Development, it's simple: what number of businesses have come to town (and stayed for more than a year, unlike our latest sad story, with the Laptop Doctor leaving suddenly), what number of non-minimum wage jobs have been created, and what has that meant to our bottom line? If we continue to focus on the small businesses, which are important, as a means of real job growth (high number of jobs), we'll be in the same position in ten years, and that's not acceptable. So we need to hire someone who'll make the salary they get justified. If we payed someone $74,000 a year who brought in amazing results, one could argue that the job was underpaid. If we have the same lack of success, that's a gross amount for little to no results.

      We could also look for retired volunteers to help with grant writing, TIF's, etc., and/or, have the Director and Town Manager involved in these functions, as they are in other towns.

4.      Would you act to replace the current town manager? Why?

      I would, but not because of any of the disagreements that we may have had in the past. I've seen a man who is making $140,000 a year not be held accountable for wasted expenses (street sweepers for $172,000, when people sill, one year later, are suffering from the burden of the tornado. Who's going to want to Make Southbridge Home, my hijacked slogan, by the way, when they see that the town cares more about a piece of unnecessary equipment than its residents?), higher property taxes, higher water and sewer rates, and views fining residents $250 for trash as a good means of income? Making the acts of a few punitive for all, he has shown his true colors. We need an effective Town Manager, who can separate him or herself from the Town Councilors (no private meetings with councilors on a frequent basis, going to their houses, parties, etc), as the appearance of impropriety is aggravating and unprofessional. A person who can't see that the four mile drive to work could make him appear heroic, by turning in his town vehicle, and incurring the expense of driving themselves, is not the type of individual we need to work for the council with the focus on improving the lives of the many, not of the fortunate few, including himself. We, as Southbridgians have to live with his decisions. As a resident of Sturbridge, he doesn't.

5.      How would you make the town website more useful?

     You're asking this of a guy that understands the power of technology? Ok, I'll try to make this one brief. We have students in school that could come up with a better, more intuitive website than the poorly designed and rarely updated one that we currently have. I would involve the students at school that are interested in technology, social media and website development, and, by reducing several assistant positions, invest in a webmaster, who would be responsible for the update of content as it happens. If we are to have transparent government, we need to have the ability to easily find any and all documents, all town meetings should be streamed on the Internet and made available on-demand, and, meeting agenda's and the supporting documentation for items on the agenda, must be available in advance. It's also wise to have a running scorecard of how Councilors and others have voted, so that at any time, I can see who is fiscally sound, and who are the free spenders, who has voted in the interest of the citizens, versus themselves. All of this information should be available to push out via social media. Finally, if people want to opt-in to be notified by text message, email or both, of upcoming meetings, transitions in government, or any other communication, they should be able to instantaneously. In this technological age that could support our town and its efforts, we choose the path, again, of being like Cathy Nikolla--being inside the box thinkers without a creative bone in their body.

6.      What is your position on current trash and recycling regulations?

      No fines of $250 for everyone or anyone. When you hunt for a bear, you don't fire randomly into the forest, hitting the innocent in pursuit of the bear. We don't need a trash cop, or someone handing out fines. You want someone to give out tickets, give it out to the worst offenders. You don't get joyous at the fact that this is increasing revenue, and then flip-flop at election time and tell 118 of those people that they're off the hook. I hope those people are still incensed at what happened to them--they should be. I also think it's worth looking at recycling pick ups for residences, once a week, and garbage collection every other week. With the recycling I'm doing now, it's working out that way for me, that this would make sense, but I may be the anomaly.

7.      What would you do to increase opportunities and activities for the town’s youth?

      We have to have jobs to increase opportunities, so we have to attract businesses. No jobs within reach, no opportunities. We blew our chance years ago with an anchor location that would have been running today, a movie theater, that would no doubt have created other jobs, because of political pressure from one councilor. An activities director is a good idea, and a skate park is nice, but everyone doesn't skateboard. We have a pool in town...don't we? That's great for the summer, but not the rest of the year. I think that working with the local Y, see if we can come up with volunteers from the community to conduct after school learning and sports/recreation programs. An activity can be a learning experience, so retired leaders of business, financial, etc, we'd love to have your talent help with the youth. Please consider sharing your help and knowledge.

8.      What, if anything, should be done with the “industrial park”?

      It's become quite apparent that this town doesn't know how to create, build and market an Industrial Park, a poor name, by the way, since you're limiting yourselves when people hear that, to Industry, and just how much industry is still within the boundaries of the United States anymore? It's a Business Park, open to all businesses, but again, without an experienced Director of Economic Development, you have two choices: let it sit idle, as a reminder that this was Councilor Nikolla's proudest moment (not practical--leaving it as is, I mean, not a monument to her inability to create anything but a road to a landfill without an off-ramp to a Business Park. The other is to sell it to a developer, with the condition being that it has to be developed and moving within a set time frame, or the town reclaims it, and owes them nothing. The town doesn't have the experience or insight, to market this park. Remember a couple of years ago, when they were going to have a business expo at the Conference center? Why did it fail to get one person to respond? They set it for one day, the Friday before Thanksgiving. Need I say anything else about our experience in marketing?

9.      Why are you the most qualified candidate in this race?

      I am proud to say that I am an out of the box thinker, who wants us leaders to be held more, not less accountable, for their promises versus their decisions, once the votes are counted. I've volunteered to serve on two Committee's, and gained some excellent insight into how things can work, and how they can't. I care about the 99% of citizens in town more than the 1% of Town Councilor's and the Town Manager. I know that the Town Manager believes that the Town Council reports to him (not true), and that a majority of councilors want to strengthen this position by making it impossible to remove him, out of friendship and loyalty, instead of performance and achievement. I have yet to hear a councilor, past or present, call for the town's website to track, in an easy to find format, the voting records of councilors. Pouring through minutes of the meetings is not fast, efficient or practical, which, I believe they prefer. Budgets are set so we don't exceed them, but there's nothing that prevents them from coming in under budget. While serving the people, no matter who you are, or what your personal feelings are about anybody, while you sit on the dais, you have a responsibility to act professionally, and not drive people away from watching or attending the meetings. I may write critiques about the wrongdoings (and praise for those doing things right), but in the Town Hall, you have to put those feeling aside, and be respectful to your citizens and your fellow councilors.

      Thomas Edison was an outside the box thinker, as was Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, and Jonas Salk, to name but a few. Without them, we'd be in the dark, without a phone, no Internet, and polio would still run rampant. It's the only way to be if we're to be successful in town. As the saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome is the definition of insanity

      It’s time to end the insanity in Southbridge, and really move forward, reducing redundancies, cutting spending, bring us into the technological age, and market Southbridge effectively. We have a great chance to do just that in June, and as a proud out of the box thinker, who believes that gauging talent is holding people accountable on results, and not how solid your friendship with that person is, that is why I am running and asking for your vote.

11 comments:

  1. Excellent interview.

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  2. I'm looking forward to hearing what the others have to say - if anything.
    Good job Dennis.

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  3. Only one person has responded, or are you holding off on other responses from the candidates? If he's the only one with guts enough to answer the questions, and with much detail, he's got my vote if for no other reason, the people that are running that are avoiding the tough questions aren't fit to serve either. If I am wrong and you have other replies, my apologies. If not, my statement stands.

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  4. Mr. O'Brien, that was meant as a question. Is there any way that you could let me know if any other candidate has responded to you?

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    1. Not yet, although I know that at least one other is planning to.

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    2. I bet I know who's asking and I bet she's afraid to answer the questions.

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    3. Do you mean the person who has Scott Lazo running their campaign?

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  5. I may not always agree with him but I will give him credit for being straightforward and standing by his words (even when I think he's wrong). I feel more comfortable voting for him but I'm waiting before selecting two more people. This town needs someone who can think and speak well, and it would be fun to see him beat Clemence!

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  6. to anon 7:07 My choice is clear MARTENEK,LAZO,MORIARTY. COMMON SENSE-EXPERIENCE-NEW IDEAS! thats the team that we need!

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  7. I'll tell you something that amazed me. There are actually some idiots out there who confuse Martinek with Marketti.

    If you run into this stupidity I hope you will straiten them out.

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  8. All this talk is fine, but Dennis got in the race late - because nobody else came forward offering a choice and a chance to regain the majority on the council.
    If you want a change, then go to his website (click on his picture above on the right) and volunteer to help or make a donation.

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